1986: Newspaper Articles and Events

During the 90-day comment period for the SEIS' preferred alternative, the spotted owl controversy generated a large amount of media coverage. Newspapers from around the United States published articles discussing the management plans of the spotted owl. There were lengthy arguments for and against measures to set aside old growth forests for owl habitat, and usually the debates pitched conservationists on one side, the timber industry on the other, and centered around preservation of spotted owl habitat versus forest timber resource use

The scoping meetings and hearings leading up to the SEIS identified six national and regional public issues and management concerns. These were:

  1. The effects of timber harvesting on spotted owl viability;
  2. The fact that decisions had been based on incomplete biological information and uncertain assumptions concerning the spotted owl;
  3. The consideration of a worst-case situation;
  4. The economic and social effects of protecting spotted owl habitat;
  5. The effects on other resources of protecting spotted owl habitat; and
  6. Disagreement about the habitat requirements of the spotted owl.”

Most of the issues debated during the last half of 1986 fell into one of the above concerns. For example, the logging industry argued that studies of the owl weren’t adequate, and questioned whether one spotted owl pair really needed 2,200 acres of old growth forest to survive. They claimed that there wasn’t enough research conducted on this issue and that the owls could, in fact, live in younger growth forests. The loggers also stated that there really was “no crisis” for the spotted owls; there were really many more owls than had been reported (pointing out that the spotted owl was not listed as endangered or threatened), and that the owls could survive for many years with current logging practices and prices. The timber industry argued that because of these reasons, the environmental impact statement and Alternative F were seriously flawed. They suggested that good research be done first, and that the forest uses should not be severely restricted at the cost of thousands of jobs.

Conservationists, meanwhile, claimed that preservation of old growth forest was not only important for the spotted owl, but for hundreds of other species also dependent upon old growth. They said that the spotted owl was an important “indicator species” – by looking at the success of these animals, one could infer the quality of the habitat and the health of the ecosystem in which they lived. Conservationists also argued against the level of the timber harvests, claiming too much was being extracted too fast, and that the old growth forests set aside in the management plan to support owls would only supply another 10 years of logging, after which these jobs would be lost anyway. Machines were quickly replacing people in the timber industry, so loss of jobs was far more than just a spotted owl problem. Some economists also said that the Forest Service severely overestimated the loss of jobs expected with Alternative F. During this time many people staged protests against the Forest Service, claiming the agency was not doing enough to protect the owls.

The Forest History Society has several thousand summaries of news items, full text articles, and photocopies of newspaper clippings concerning the spotted owl and the U.S. Forest Service. We have highlighted a few articles, below, to reflect the issues evident in the media during the last half of 1986.

Date: 7/31/86 “Forest Service has Suggested Preserving 1.2 million Acres...” From: NEWS, OR

Date: 9/11/86 “I like Owls, But...” From: International Woodworker, OR.

Date: 11/12/86 “Conservationists Attack Timber Industry Stand” From: Daily Courier, OR.

Date: 11/12/86 “Spotted Owl Decision Will Affect Our Future”From: Lebanon Express, OR

Date: 11/17/86 “Owls Not State’s Main Timber Issue” From: The Oregonian, OR

Date: 11/30/86 “Old-growth Forest Decline Clouds Spotted Owl’s Future” From: Tri-City Herald, WA.

Date: 12/4/86“LETTERS: Add It All Up”Mail Tribune, OR.
*Please contact the Forest History Society collections staff if you would like copies of these or other articles*


USDA Forest Service. “Draft Supplement to the Environmental Impact Statement for an Amendment to the Pacific Northwest Regional Guide: Volume 1, Spotted Owl Guidelines." USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, 1986.

Northwest Regional Guide: Volume 1, Spotted Owl Guidelines.” USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, 1986.

Northern Spotted Owl Newsclippings 1986 - 1989